As we finish 2012, a year in which the growing season began with an abnormally warm March, was plagued by a severe drought that impacted much of the corn belt, and ended with farmers reporting both record high and record low yields in corn and soybeans, it is fitting to discuss climate and weather and its impact on our agriculture industry.

Last year, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (a NOAA-funded collaboration of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan) and the USDA National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment assembled a team of experts to provide input to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s forthcoming National Climate Assessment. This Midwest Technical Input Team produced a series of reports in 2012, representing the current state of knowledge on what climate change and variability mean to the most critical sectors in the region.

According to the team’s report on historical climate trends, weather and climate remain among the most important uncontrollable variables involved in the region’s agricultural production systems. This is particularly critical for the Midwest as agriculture is a major player in this region’s economy, with over $200 billion in farm gate value.